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A beautiful mind meets free software: game theory, competition and cooperation

Author(s): Alexandre Oliva

Journal: Exacta
ISSN 1678-5428

Volume: 4;
Issue: Esp;
Start page: 25;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Russel Crowe, playing John Forbes Nash Junior (aka John Nash) in Ron Howards’ motion picture A beautiful mind, claims that Adam Smith’s theory that “in competition, individual ambition serves the common good” is incomplete, and that “the best result will come from everybody in the group doing what’s best for himself and the group”. Adam Smith’s motto synthesizes pretty well what happens in the competition-driven proprietary software development market, whereas Nash’s adds the cooperation that is so common even among competitors in free software markets. Every commercial free software developer tries to obtain its edge by developing better software, thus contributing to the software pool that even its competitors will be able to build upon. I.e., every free software developer does what’s best for himself, and the group, so the best outcome is achieved. The paper shows how the GNU General Public License (or GNU GPL or simply GPL) licensing model can be economically favorable to developers over proprietary and even Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD)-like licenses.

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